THE BHA HANDICAPPERS
Weblog: View from the team behind the official ratings
Baby Mix "leap-frogged back to top of juvenile tree" with Kempton winPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Trials and tribulations
Saturday proved a big day in the run-up to the Triumph Hurdle, with several of the leading contenders completing their preparations at Kempton and Fairyhouse, and there was a real shake-up in the betting in the aftermath.
Kempton was also the scene of the fast-improving Hunt Ball's latest success, and boy did that open a can of worms!
John de Moraville takes the opportunity to fire back at the criticism he received from the gelding's owner in Monday's Racing Post, while Matthew Tester's grievance centres on the Racing Post itself! Read on . . .
IN THE MIX
Oh what a lovely triumph by Baby Mix on Saturday as he leap-frogged back to the top of the juvenile tree (on my figures anyway) by way of his career-best 149 in winning the Grade 2 William Hill Adonis Hurdle, writes Dave Dickinson.
This race saw first defeats over timber for Sadler's Risk (who nevertheless shaped well running to 142) and Dildar, knocking their JCB Triumph chances, though by no means to the extent that Ireland's leading hope had his aspirations dashed just five minutes earlier.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the openness of this year's juvenile centrepiece, but that ten minutes on Saturday just about summed it up. Ante-post favourite Minsk made his hurdle debut at Fairyhouse and was given weight and a narrow beating by the admirable but not-top-class Burrenbridge Lodge, who would be rated 136 in Britain.
He reportedly now misses the race and the more cynical amongst you would maybe think he was only favourite on the back of an impressive Flat win in the Irish Cesarewitch and the fact that he wasunbeaten over hurdles having never been tried over them!
The return to form of Baby Mix will divide opinion I am sure. He made one serious mistake, but racing more prominently on this occasion he settled better than he had when flopping behind Pearl Swan at Cheltenham and gave me the impression that the helter-skelter of the Triumph will be right up his street.
That said there is no denying that Sadler's Risk (who was in receipt of 3lb) was clawing back the advantage in the closing stages and Prestbury should suit him better too. How's that for sitting on the fence. Good job it's a hurdle race!
STILL IN THE HUNT
When jumping's end-of-season gongs are dished out in April, rookie trainer Kieran Burke should, at the very least, be mentioned in dispatches, writes John de Moraville.
Burke, an ex-jockey who took over the licence at the Somerset stables of former boss Pat Rodford, has expertly steered the hugely progressive Hunt Ball through the ranks this term to win six of his seven chases.
Having kicked off his winning spree at Folkestone in November off a basement mark of 69, Hunt Ball has glided to victory off 75, 85, 108, 117 and, most recently, and impressively, at Kempton on Saturday off 127.
The seven-year-old could be named the winner on Saturday a long way from home, easing to victory over that doughty mare Cool Friend by ten lengths. That margin, in my view, could have been readily extended to fifteen, hence his latest weight rise of 15lb.
Hunt Ball's new mark of 142 has not impressed his animated owner Anthony Knott, although his argument that it rules the horse out of his preferred Cheltenham target - the 0-140 Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase - is incorrect.
Qualification for that race is judged on ratings published on February 21 - at which stage Hunt Ball was 127 - although he'll have to run off his new figure of 142. As such he'll carry 12st - 2lb above the 140 ceiling at 11st 12lb.
If anything, Knott's assurances to Barry Geraghty on Saturday, that the gelding had two stone in hand at Kempton, make this 15lb rise look far from prohibitive for Hunt Ball in his eyes. He's also quoted as saying he regrets not entering Hunt Ball in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, believing he has around thirty lengths to find on the principals - another comment that suggests Knott feels a mark in the 150s would be more appropriate!
One cliché used by racing journalists really annoys me, writes Matthew Tester.
Sunday saw the Racing Post headline "Hunt Ball continues to defy handicapper" after the horse won again at Kempton. The Handicapper has tried to give Hunt Ball a fair chance of winning, so how can Hunt Ball "defy" him by doing just that?
The reason the headline upsets me is that it suggests the Handicapper is trying to stop the horse from winningand that the horse has somehow thwarted him.
The reality is that if a horse has won six handicaps in a row then our job is to try to give it a fair chance to win a seventh one. It is not helpful to imply as, in my opinion, the headline does that we were trying to end the winning run and were defied.
Racing Post - please cut out this cliché.
Market Rasen and Carlisle might not always be the first tracks to look to in search of Cheltenham contenders but a couple of handicap winners at those venues in the last week fully deserve to take their chance at the Festival, writes Chris Nash.
At Market Rasen on Sunday Attaglance was the impressive winner of a 2m3f 0-135 handicap hurdle. Runningoff a mark of 130, and as such top weight, he skipped clear from two out to win by nine lengths.
The pace of the race was fair and the time was respectable so there are reasons to think that this could be reliable form. I have decidedto give him full credit for the margin of victory and raised his rating 9lb to 139. He holds entries in the County Hurdle, the Martin Pipe Hurdle and the Coral Cup.
At Carlisle on Monday it was the turn of Tenor Nivernais to advertise his festival claims. He lined up in a 0-130 handicap hurdle over 2m4f off the top rating of 130 and made light of his 11st 12lb burden, drawingaway under hands and heels for a comfortable five-length victory.
He did it in style and I thought he was worth more than the margin, so after recording a figure of 137+ he will be asked to line up off a rating of 140 next time out.
He holds entries in the Martin Pipe Hurdle, the Coral Cup and the Pertemps Final, and although his two most recent victories have been secured on very testing ground his staying-on seventh in the Fred Winter (over 2m) at last year's festival suggests quicker conditions shouldn't prove a problem.
This blog appears courtesy of britishhorseracing.com